Ships complete ‘historical passage’ on Northern Sea Route

Never before at this time of year have so many vessels been rescued out of the ice, says Russia's nuclear icebreaker operator Rosatom.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - December 8, 2021
Icebreaking on the Northern Sea Route. (Rosmorport via The Independent Barents Observer)

It has been an Arctic odyssey for the ships and crews that in November got stuck in sea-ice on the remote Northern Sea Route.

After a month of icy captivity and subsequent icebreaker rescue, a convoy of nine vessels this week made it to safety in the Kara Sea.

On December 7, a Russian nuclear icebreaker completed the escort of ships that started in the far eastern Arctic, almost six thousand kilometers away.

It has been a historical passage on the route, General Director of Atomflot Mustafa Kashka says in a comment.

He praises the captain of the Vaigach, Mikhail Goncharenko, who successfully managed to bring the many ships into safe haven.

“It was his first voyage after his appointment and he truly demonstrated that he is a worthy descendent of our school of Arctic captains,” Kashka underlines.

Among the eight vessels that were escorted by the Vaigach is Kumpula, the Finnish bulk carrier. The ship entered the Bering Strait in early November and was due to reach the Danish port of Skagen on November 22.

After icebreaker escort into the East Siberian Sea, the 197-meter-long carrier was isolated for more than a week north of the New Siberian Islands waiting for further icebreaking assistance. On December 7, the ship sailed independently into the ice-free Barents Sea. The ice-class Arc4 Kumpula has Helsinki as its home port.

It is expected to arrive in the Norwegian port of Narvik on December 11, updated information from the MarineTraffic shows.

Ship owner ESL Shipping has not responded to requests from comments for the Barents Observer.

Among the other seven vessels that were part of the historical convoy was the Selenga, which is now moored in the Sever Bay in Taymyr where delivers construction goods to Rosneft’s major Vostok Oil project.

The remaining vessels, oil tanker Vladimir Rusanov, cargo ships Severnyi ProectMekhanik PustoshnyyGrigoryy ShelikhovRZK Constanta and Turukhan are expected to arrive in Arkhangelsk on December 9.

The troublesome early winter conditions on the Northern Sea Route took everyone by surprise, and is a lesson also for state nuclear power company Rosatom.

The leader of the company’s Northern Sea Route Directorate, Vyacheslav Ruksha, has already made clear that Russia must increase the number of LK-60 icebreakers to seven in order to successfully implement a year-round shipping regime on the Northern Sea Route.